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History of Forest Home Farms

Patch's monthly history column takes you back in time to explore San Ramon's past.

Patch contributor Camille Thompson's new monthly column takes you back in time to discover the vibrant history of San Ramon sites.

There's been a lot of hoopla lately surrounding the David Glass House, with the recent completion of the renovation and the long-awaited grand opening.

But what about Forest Home Farms, the property the Glass house now occupies? Forest Home Farms comes with a rich history of its own.

As we step back in time, let's start with the farm's name: There was no "Forest" family. It is believed that the name comes from the lush grove of trees bordering Oak Creek, the stream that meanders through the property on the south side. 

The original Forest Home Farms boasted 375 acres, which stretched north to Pine Valley Road and east to the railroad tracks (now the Iron Horse Trail). (Today only 16 acres remain.)

All in the Family

Minnie and Numa Boone purchased the original farm in 1900. Minnie used funds from a recent inheritance to build onto the small original farm house, creating the existing Dutch Colonial Revival home.

Boone's son Travis and his wife Ruth later inherited the property. It was Ruth, who died in 1998, who donated what is now Forest Home Farms to the city of San Ramon to be preserved as a park in honor of her husband.

Ruth, who grew up in a well-to-do Hollywood family, met Travis in 1929 in Los Angeles, where he worked in a tile company. When Travis was laid off from his job after the stock market crash, the couple decided to move to Forest Home Farms to help Travis's parents, who were struggling to hold onto the property during the depression.

Not Always the Traditional Farm

You'd never guess from looking at it today, but Forest Home Farms has a bit of a nutty history.

From the 1930s through the 1960s, the farm operated as a walnut processing plant. Farmers throughout the valley pulled their loaded trucks into the farm and dumped their walnuts off to be dried and hulled. 

Travis proved to be a talented inventor. Among his inventions is the walnut dehydrator built in the 1930s. After discovering that the unpredictable Bay Area fog made drying walnuts outdoors impractical, Travis designed a conveyor system for drying the walnuts indoors. This dehydrator became the prototype for other similar operations used throughout northern California.

A Bit of Trivia for History Buffs

Many of the farm's more interesting stories come from interviews with Ruth Boone conducted shortly before her death. 

One such story involves a bonsai tree once owned and nurtured by a gardener of Japanese descent that the Boones employed.

During WWII, before he was relocated to an internment camp, the gardener planted the tree in the front yard, where it still grows today, in the hope that it would live on in his absence.

Another favorite story demonstrates Ruth's shrewd methods for finding ways to bring in money to keep the farm afloat financially.

To help make ends meet, Ruth put up preserves and olives and sold them on a roadside stand. A number of the original bottles with Forest Home Farms labels are on display at the property.

Another product she sold at the stand was discovered quite by happenstance.

Feed for the livestock was stored in the granary--a wood-frame, double-walled structure. One day Ruth discovered a sticky substance running down the walls of the granary. Apparently a hive of bees had set up residence between the walls. Ever the entrepreneur, Ruth collected the honey on metal trays, bottled and sold it.

Today at Forest Home Farms

Much has changed since those early days on the farm.

Today Forest Home Farms is preserved as a park by the city. People from all over the valley visit to learn about its history and life on the farm. Third grade students from throughout the valley participate in the park's educational program, to learn about life at the turn of the 20th century.

And docent-guided tours of the property, conducted the second Saturday of each month, offer many more captivating stories of early valley life.

In addition to the many events held at the park, including Sheep Shearing Day and Holiday at the Farm, San Ramon's Farmers Market is held there every Saturday from May through October. 

At a Glance

Treat yourself and your family to a tour of Forest Home Farms, and enjoy a fascinating journey back in time.

Visit http://www.sanramon.ca.gov/Parks/programs/historic/forestupdate.htm for more information about tours and programs at Forest Home Farms

Visit http://sanramonhistoricfoundation.org/ to learn how you can become a member of the San Ramon Historic Foundation and receive discounts to Farm events.

Acknowledgments: Jane Jennings & San Ramon Historic Foundation for providing source materials.

penny warner June 21, 2010 at 02:34 PM
Fascinating information! So glad it's being restored. -Penny
Camille Thompson June 21, 2010 at 08:37 PM
It's really a beautiful piece of property. Bring the family for a tour sometime! -Camille

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